Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Barbs are flying between the Democratic and Republican candidates for Bernalillo County sheriff – with one campaign alleging collusion with the sitting sheriff and the other referencing a decades-old civil rights violation lawsuit.
On June 7, the day of the primary election, current Sheriff Manuel Gonzales submitted to the state’s Department of Public Safety seven misconduct reports appearing to allege that Democratic candidate John Allen had committed overtime abuse as a sergeant years ago. Allen retired from BCSO in December 2019.
The alleged misconduct happened between August 2019 and January 2021.
A DPS spokesman said the documents BCSO submitted have limited details in the summary and were not filed within 90 days of when the agency was made aware of an incident – as is required – so it is not being investigated.
“The matter is not that the board lacks jurisdiction, it is that the reports were filed two years late,” H.L. Lovato wrote in an email. “This is not a failure on the part of the LEA Board; the BCSO failed to submit a report in a timely manner.”
Regardless of the outcome, Allen’s campaign is saying that Gonzales broke the law “by using county taxpayer resources for a political purpose: to attempt to defeat the candidate he does not want to succeed him” because, a week after he filed the report, Allen’s Republican opponent requested it through the Inspection of Public Records Act.
“I think that it’s indisputably political and that (Paul) Pacheco and his treasurer in his campaign knew to file an IPRA,” said Allen’s campaign manager Neri Holguin. “They could have only known that having worked directly with Gonzales.”
Pacheco, however, disputed that he was tipped off and said his campaign has submitted “dozens of IPRA requests to various agencies over the past several months.”
“John Allen getting disciplined for committing time-sheet fraud was the worst kept secret at the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department,” Pacheco said in an email.
And a BCSO spokeswoman responded to questions about why the reports were filed in June 2022 by saying she couldn’t answer because, as an agency, “we must remain neutral and unbiased regarding political matters.”
“We will continue to respond to all inquiries regarding ongoing or active scenes,” deputy Felicia Maggard wrote in an email. “However, we may not provide comment if the topic may be a part of any political coverage. We are a law enforcement agency, and solely focused on public safety and serving our constituents.”
Pacheco, meanwhile, brought up a lawsuit filed against Allen in 2001 that alleged he conducted an unlawful search when he was a New Mexico State Police officer and made false statements about it in court.
“We are not going to be lectured on ethics by a man who was run out of the State Police for committing perjury in a criminal case, according to both a judge and his fellow officer,” he said.
The lawsuit in question settled. Thom Cole, a spokesman for the General Services Department, said it appears that the state paid out $30,000 around April 2002; however, the full records have been destroyed due to their age.
Allen acknowledged that the search happened when he was a rookie State Police officer in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He said that, during a traffic stop, he recovered cocaine from “a known and dangerous narcotics dealer.”
“Although we received verbal consent to search the car, we did not have consent to search a toolbox in the bed of the truck where the drugs
were found,” Allen said. “I should have communicated more clearly with other officers and further reviewed evidence before the court case.”
He said he now knows – and teaches at the Law Enforcement Academy – that “consent given in any search and seizure arena should be verbal or written. Consent can stop at any time. Once the owner stops consent, which can be given at any time, the search must stop.”
Allen and Pacheco are joined on the ballot by Libertarian Kaelan Dreyer.
The Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriffs Association is not endorsing a candidate in the race. It did register its objections to an article in the Journal on Saturday, where Allen referenced a shooting by a deputy in 2017.
President Ryan Zamora said the union hopes that “the candidates will focus on themselves, their plans and their opponents, not any of our members.”
“We have elected not to endorse any candidate for the office of Sheriff,” Zamora said. “We are looking forward to working with either candidate. We have confidence that, regardless of who wins, we will be able to continue a cordial relationship and accomplish the mission of the Sheriff’s Office.”